Gambling Addiction: Public Health Issue or Blown Out of Proportion?  

December 14, 2022

Gambling is, without a doubt, fun. The sound of rolling dice, stacking chips, or cards being dealt from the shoe are enough to spark anyone’s interest but is the excitement of placing a bet strong enough for it to cause a public health crisis? According to one research conducted by Statista and published in November of 2020 – most residents of Poland, both gamers and non-gamers, believe it can cause an addiction. 

To help us understand the span of this pandemic and learn whether the situation in Poland is as serious as it seems, we talked to Aleksandra Maj, a gambling expert from Poland. Maj is Polish, born and raised, and knows all about the issue. 

“It is hard to estimate the true number of gamblers in Poland. All stats are based on the number of people who gather enough courage to report their problems or have loved ones who push them in the right direction. However, there are also plenty of those who don’t think they have a problem and never apply for therapy”, she is honest. 

Type of Gambling Does Make a Difference

According to Maj, not all games are created the same, and the mere number of hands played doesn’t tell you whether the person has a gaming problem. In her opinion, most people won’t even consider “zdrapki online za prawdziwe pieniądze” (or scratch cards for real money, in case you are not fluent in Polish) to be gambling, even though they can be pretty addictive. On the other hand, poker players have a notorious reputation for being gamblers, despite playing a skill-based game. 

“It would be great if authorities and special organizations would make a distinction between games of skill and games of chance. Games of skill can be addictive, but not as much as games of pure chance”, she suggests, naming the most popular games based on mere luck – slot machines, roulette, lottery. Maj is also pretty open about the fact not everyone who tries to gamble gets addicted. This expert has seen a fair share of casual gamblers who play only when the occasion calls for it, which is something that, in her opinion, authorities fail to recognize. 

Creating a Gambling Taboo in Poland

In the autumn of 2021, Poland’s Ministry of Finance Krajowa Administracja Skarbowa (KAS), launched a campaign, trying to raise awareness about problem gambling. It is supposed to target underage audiences and warn them about the potential dangers of this activity. The motto ‘Gambling? Don’t Get Involved!’, according to Maj is not representing the industry in the right manner, nor does it implement safe gaming practices. 

“If the state wants to get serious about the issue, it should tackle it by fining all sites and establishments that allow children and teens to use their services. Telling teens not to do it makes this forbidden fruit taste juicier than ever”, explains the insider. Maj also believes such an approach creates an unnecessary taboo, preventing people from seeking help on time. 

The fact that gamers think they are doing something forbidden and unacceptable makes it even harder to look for help. Problem gamblers are afraid they will face judgment and be scrutinized in both their personal and professional life. Even when they are desperate, they will more likely just go with the flow and try to chase losses, then look for professional help. 

“I am all for a proactive approach and educating audiences about the importance of responsible gaming, but intimidating them won’t have much effect. Also, it would be great if some sort of support would be available in smaller communities and not only in bigger cities like Warsaw, Łódź, and Krakow. The less effort one has to put into reaching organizations that can help. The bigger the chances they will do so. No one wants to commute for two hours just to get to the group therapy”, Maj is honest. 

How To Recognize Gambling Addiction?

Another aspect our expert thinks is not talked about is recognizing the symptoms of gambling addiction. To help our readers who might experience difficulties in staying on the safe side, we will introduce you to some methods which can be of help. 

There are many online tests one can solve to determine whether they are exposed to the risk of developing a gambling problem. Furthermore, one can take a look at their finances. If this fun pastime is making you break the bank, find a support group or talk to your doctor. Also, spend some time thinking about your relationship with others. If you lie, deceive or enter into conflicts with your family and friends, all due to gambling, it would be time for you to find a way to take your gambling activity back to a more acceptable level. 


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